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Influence

March 29, 2009

Consciously or not, we are all of us influenced by the work of others.  Which authors writers do you bear a debt of gratitude to?

Anyone who has read my columns will by now know that one of my major inluencs was Edgar Allan Poe.  Poe was an eclectic author of satire, poetry, crime, detective drama, but is best known for his Gothic horror and macabre short stories.  I grew up with these, and Poe has had a palpable influence on the thematic content of my work.

He had a similar heady influence on another writer to influence me, H P Lovecraft.  Lovecraft created an entire reality (or unreality) of creatures, gods to the mortal world, a mythos that has been adopted and used by a raft of writers after him.  I came to Lovecraft’s work comparatively late, but the effect was immediate, so much so that I have now explicitly set my own Long Watch story arc within the Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

As a departure from the horrific, British writer Terry Pratchett has been part of my reading life since I was in my early teens.  Pratchett’s Discworld is a fantasy world that is an eerie parallel of ours, part steam-punk, part magic, Pratchett has created a world that satirises our own with such sardonic wit that I frequently have to stop reading as I am laughing too much to focus on the words.  Pratchett does not shy away from powerful issues (recent books have focused on racism, war, corruption etc) but demonstrates the power of humour to tackel social issues.  Even in quite serious pieces, I try to make room for at least some light touches of humour.

Which writers have had the most influence on your work?

Paul had his writing style compared very favourably to Stephen King this week. This is the third time someone has made that comparison, so maybe he should start reading more King than just On Writing
7 Comments
  1. March 29, 2009 5:26 am

    I have influences in both the literary and the political sense. I think writers you read a lot of automatically influence your voice and style and for me that is King and Murakami, but thematically it’s writers such as Steinbeck, Orwell, Palahnuik and Irvine Welsh, plus the usual Marxist writers if we’re including non-fiction here.

  2. March 29, 2009 6:16 am

    Loving this article Paul – and huge thumbs up for both Poe and Pratchett – though not sure if they would like to have been put in the same sentence? I am in awe and thus influenced by David Gemmel – his turn of phrase and description of gore covered battle scenes, of hand to hand combat and of tortured souls in one I can only dream of emulating.

  3. March 29, 2009 7:54 am

    The poets who most influence me are Margaret Atwood (though her novels probably don’t influence me) and Ruth Padel. There are many others though too. I posted recently about influential writers on my blog and will be adding another couple in the next few days.

  4. March 29, 2009 8:39 am

    Paul, this is a great topic, and I love to give attribution as often as possible for the people who influence me. I’ve thought about this, and can’t really think of a published author who would be the primary influence on my writing. If anyone, it would be my dad, who spent his career in Air Force public affairs. My writing tends to be quite businesslike and succinct, and I think it may come from his influence. I would also say that the people I’ve met and my own life experiences have given color to my more recent writing, that I didn’t have previously when I was blogging about education. I think I crossed a threshold where I realized each of us has such a completely different life experience, that we are all full of infinite storytelling possibility.

  5. March 29, 2009 9:10 am

    Douglass Adams, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are probably the three biggest influences for my writing throughout my life. More recently, I’d add JK Rowling into my list.

    I don’t think my style or the substance of my writing mimics any of these authors outside of a general tendency to like to write in a more conversational, largely accessible style with lots of descriptions about the scene or the emotions involved with the story. However, these four authors are a very large reason that I write at all. Early on, I wrote some bad poetry as a way to cope with what seemed like a badly stacked deck, but that’s all it was — a way to cope.

    Seeing the way these authors told a story that drew me in and made me feel what the characters were feeling is what made me want to do the same thing. I’ve had marginal (if that) success at it, but reading their works continues to inspire me to keep working at it. Other authors have drawn me in, but not in the same way as these four have.

  6. March 29, 2009 10:16 am

    I too love Pratchett and have the same problem you do…he’s such a good and funny writer that if I try to study what he’s written I get too caught up in what he has written and forget to analyze it. I just found out on Friday that he was Knighted on Dec 31, 2008.

    From a humor perspective I’ve been influenced by Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore and in recent year Jasper Fforde.

    Arthur C. Clarke is a another, though obviously not humor. And in the recent years I’ve taken to studying the works of John Varley whom I consider to be one of the best writers (especially as to technique) of the modern age.

  7. March 30, 2009 4:46 am

    Influential writers … I’m with Jen in terms of being heavily influenced by my Dad. He lent me my first Clive Cussler book (Sahara) and Dean Koontz novel (Lightning) both of whom have been favourite authors of mine for a long time. He lent me last year Gerald Seymour’s The Unknown Solider which definitely let me see the creation and collusion of a story in a whole new light.

    I’m also heavily influenced by my partner who is a voracious reader and through him I’ve come to love Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s work, my introduction to magical realism, and have a whole list of other authors I’m looking forward to exploring in the near future.

    If I got right back to the start, I probably have to cite Virginia Andrews as a very early influence and the macarbe underlays have probably never left my writing. Even though it is slightly embarrassing to admit that. I love Nick Earls’ sense of humour and easy going writing style – as well as his love of his and my(adopted) hometown Brisbane. I’m a huge fan of Raymond E Fiest for the grandness of the Riftwar saga and for creating some of my favourite characters in Pug and Tomas. Most recently there is Neal Stephenson for the sheer magnitude of the projects that he takes on, and in terms of Snow Crash the brilliant manner in which he created a futurist world that takes a jab at just about everything and everyone.

    Very thought provoking Paul – I get an insight perhaps into why I can’t pin myself into any one genre.

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